Showing posts from November, 2016

Soccer privatization: A template for Saudi reform

By James M. Dorsey
Saudi Arabia has approved the privatization of state-owned sports clubs as part of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to streamline bureaucracy, curb public spending, diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy, and upgrade its autocracy.
The effort to clean up the sports sector follows the rare admission earlier this year of a match-fixing scandal as well as a financial crisis that offered a glimpse of the daunting task and pitfalls involved in Prince Mohammed’s reform plan.
The kingdom’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) headed by Prince Mohammed earlier this month ordered sports authorities to create a fund that would provide loans to financially troubled clubs. The council said the fund would create 40,000 new jobs but offered no further detail.
Similarly, few details were provided about how the clubs, some of which are controlled by members of the ruling Al Saud family, would be privatized beyond a statement saying that the cou…

Palestine threatens CAS claim over West Bank clubs (JMD quoted in Global Arbitration Review)

Tom Jones25 November 2016 [Buy now]
(Wikimedia Commons)
In a statement to press earlier this month, Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub said he would file a claim at CAS unless FIFA agrees to relocate the teams when the world football body holds its council meeting next January. “We will not give up. We will never accept any compromise,” he said. The dispute centres on six football clubs playing in Israel’s lower divisions that are based in Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The Palestinian FA says the location of the teams violates FIFA rules, which state that football clubs from FIFA member affiliates – such as the Israeli FA – may not play on the territory of other football associations without their permission. Palestine considers the settlements to be built on its own territory, which is illegally occupied under international law. It argues that the clubs are playing there without the permission of the Palestinian FA, which has been recognised by FIFA since 1998. FIFA has establi…

Human Rights Watch and FIFA test Middle East fallout of Trump’s election

By James M. Dorsey
Human Rights Watch (HRW), in an initial probing of the impact of the rise of US President-elect Donald J. Trump, has asked the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights to include world soccer body FIFA in a registry of enterprises that do business with Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
The request is based on the fact that the Israel Football Association (IFA) organizes matches in Israeli settlements and allows six settlement teams to play in Israeli Leagues. The Palestine Football Association (PFA) backed by HRW has denounced the Israeli policy as a violation of FIFA policy that stipulates that teams can only play on the territory of another FIFA member with that member’s permission.
Like much of the international community, the PFA and HRW view Israeli settlements as illegal. In response, the IFA has argued that the settlements are disputed territory whose status has yet to be resolved in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Tokyo Sexwale, the head of …

Qatari soft power efforts: two steps forward, one step backwards

By James M. Dorsey

Efforts to leverage Qatar’s 2022 World Cup hosting rights to create the soft power the Gulf state needs to punch above its weight and ensure a sympathetic hearing in the international community in times of emergency operate on the Leninist principle of two steps forward, one step backwards.

Take events this month as an example.

On the plus side, Qatar’s ambition to host not only the World Cup but also an Olympic Games was boosted with a declaration by Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), that he was open to a renewed Qatari bid. Qatar’s last bid failed in part because of criticism of its controversial labour sponsorship or kafala system that restricts workers’ rights and puts them at the mercy of their employers.

Mr. Bach’s statement may well reflect the emergence of a world in which human and other rights count for less with the rise of President-elect Donald J, Trump in the United States and of illiberal, if not authoritarian l…

Qatar calls into question its sincerity in pushing World Cup-driven reform

By James M. Dorsey
For much of the last six years since winning the hosting rights of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar appeared to be taking a slow and torturous path towards some degree of reform. Yet, in an increasingly conservative world in which human rights are put on the backburner, fears among rights and trade union activists that lofty Qatari promises of labour reform and some degree of greater liberalism may not be much more than just lofty undertakings appear to be gaining steam.
To be sure, the controversial awarding of the hosting rights has contributed to more open discussion in Qatar of hitherto taboo subjects including the rights of workers who constitute the vast majority of the population of the tiny, energy-rich Gulf state; the definition of Qatari identity; what rights, if any, non-Qataris should have in obtaining Qatari citizenship; and the rights and social position of women and gays.
A 28-year old Qatari, in the latest pushing of the envelope that brings into the open …

Reformist Saudi prince bounces up against flawed education system and ingrained social mores

By James M. Dorsey
An unpublished survey of aspirations of young Saudi men suggests that garnering enthusiasm for Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s vision of the kingdom’s social and economic future, let alone a buy in, is likely to meet resistance without a hitherto lacking effort to win support.
Obstacles to get broad-based acceptance of social changes involved in Vision 2030, the prince’s masterplan for the future published in April, are rooted in the cloaking of ultra-conservative tribal mores in Islamic legitimization by the kingdom’s religious scholars. They also stem from a flawed education system that fails to impart critical thinking and analytical skills.
“People were not interested in political change or reform. They wanted social change but they pull back when they realize this has consequences for their sisters. Their analytical ability and critical thinking is limited,… If you look at Twitter, people don’t know how to argue. They don’t have the patience …

Creating a legal precedent: Palestine considers suing Israel in international sports court

By James M. Dorsey
The Palestine Football Association (PFA), in a first testing of Palestine’s ability to fight its battle with Israel in international courts, plans to go to the world’s top court for sports in a bid to force its Israeli counterpart to view Israeli settlements on the West Bank as occupied territory rather than an extension of the Jewish state.
The potential Palestinian move follows the Palestinian Authority’s campaign to isolate Israel in international organizations and challenge Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Using soccer as a testing ground, Palestine’s efforts to confront Israel in international organizations has produced mixed results. While Palestine succeeded in joining various international organizations, the PFA last year failed to muster sufficient votes to persuade world soccer body FIFA to suspend Israel. The PFA argued that the policies of the Israeli government and the Israel Football Association (IFA) vi…


By Daniel Malloy
execution on July 14, 2016, in Manila, Philippines. SOURCEDONDI TAWATAO/GETTY WHY YOU SHOULD CARE Because the war is not going away.
“The human-rights people will commit suicide if I finish these all,” President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly said on Thursday, waving a fat dossier filled with names of alleged drug criminals and “narco-politicians” in the Philippines. The next day, a small-town mayor who’d earlier been named as a drug suspect was shot dead by police. Farewell, due process — and say hello to Duterte’s little friend. The new president of the Philippines has appalled many in the West with his brutal and often extrajudicial war on alleged drug dealers. But in much of Asia and the Middle East, the get-tough posture of “The Punisher” is rather more familiar. In September, Indonesia’s antidrug chief called drug dealers’ lives “meaningless” and pledged all-out war on narcotics. In October, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen vowed a crackdown on his coun…

Taking on militants: A fight for the soul of Pakistan

By James M. Dorsey Two high-level meetings in recent months involving senior military commanders and intelligence officials and/or top-level government representatives spotlight Pakistan’s difficulty in coming to grips with domestic and regional political violence resulting from decades of support of militant Islamist and jihadist groups for foreign policy and ideological reasons. Overcoming those difficulties could determine Pakistan’s future, the nature of its society and its place in the world. The first of those meeting was a gathering in August of Pakistani military commanders in the wake of a massive bombing in Quetta that killed some 70 people and wiped out a generation of lawyers in the province of Baluchistan. The commanders concluded that the attack constituted a sinister foreign-inspired plot that aimed to thwart their effort to root out political violence. Their analysis stroked with their selective military campaign aimed at confronting specific groups like the Pakistani Ta…